Through last weekend about one-fourth of the Major League baseball season had been played. Sort of.
For one thing, 7-inning games in doubleheaders mean fewer innings played.
For another, the Covid List means that players are coming and going at all times, sometimes slipping off your roster only to return the next day, or disappear for the mandatory 10 days when you don’t have a sub.
Plus guys are getting hurt more, it seems. On my XFL team, which picks up new players off waivers the first Sunday of each month, I have Mike Trout and Wil Myers on my active roster because I have Byron Buxton, Kevin Pillar, Tyler O’Neill, Kole Calhoun, Brendan Rodgers, and Joey Votto on the IL. Donovan Solano just came off the IL but my middle infielders are healthy (I’m not complaining about that). Plus, on the pitching side, Michael Pineda just joined Jacob deGrom, Carlos Carrasco, Huascar Ynoa, Chris Archer, Luke Weaver, and Keynan Middleton on the IL. In this semi-dynasty-league our attempt to go for it has been kneecapped.
But not every player has been injured. Yet. So I thought it might be helpful to look at who this year’s top performers have been.
The shocking thing here is that the average price for the top 26 hitters (all those with $12 or more in profits) is that they cost, on average, just $8. Or maybe that’s not so shocking, because obviously the cheaper players have a better chance of earning big profits.
A look at the biggest earners gives a different picture.
They cost, on average, $24. Seven of them cost more than $30. Those are the players, Trea Turner, Ronald Acuna, Xander Bogaerts, Bo Bichette, Whit Merrifield, Jose Ramirez, and Mike Trout, who you pay for because you can count on them earning.
While the performance of this group will vary going forward, for instance, Mike Trout is going to miss most of the second quarter, the only name on this list that is shocking from an expectation standpoint is Cedric Mullins, who happens to top the first list and place 10th here. Did we misjudge Mullins that much?
Looking back it seems we surely did. He had a fine spring coming off a solid enough 2020 short season. There were semi-playing time issues that reduced his projected at-bats to the 450 range, but he was expected to hit with power, to run a fair amount, and to have a subpar batting average. So far the batting average is very fine, but it should drop. But maybe not as much as we expected. The fact is that Mullins is hitting the ball harder this year. His xBA so far is .275, not so far off the .300 or so he’s at right now. The challenge is to figure out what he’s going to do the rest of the way. Not that he’s available, but if you have should trade him? If you don’t, should you trade for him? (This is the question to be asked of nearly all on this list.)
Prorated out from his Q1 stats he’s a .312 hitter on the full year, with 18 more homers and 15 more steals. His BABIP suggests he’s more of a .250 hitter the rest of the way, which is what the Fangraphs’ predictors huddle around, with 12 more homers and 14 more steals. That would make him something of a $19 player on the season, a nice return on the minuscule investments his owners in LABR and Tout Wars made.
In Tout Wars Glenn Colton and Rick Wolf paid $1 for Mullins. Not surprisingly, there is a battle for first with last year’s winner, Chris Liss.
But a $19 earnings on the year means he’ll be a $14 player going forward (based on the stats he’s already put up). Not a bad player for $1, but not the same difference-maker he’s been so far.
There is another informative list to be scanned. The hitters who for one reason or another were paid but aren’t producing.
Not much to say here. We paid $26 for these guys on average and they aren’t getting it done. If your guys are on this list you may be able to tell why your team is struggling.
In Tout Wars NL Grey Albright is seventh despite investing large in Cody Bellinger and losing. One reason he wasn’t totally crushed is that he has one of the big names on this next chart:
These are the pitchers with the most profit. Mark Melancon is propping up Albright’s Tout NL team, along with Yu Darvish, who scores high on a different chart. Not a big profit-maker but a guy getting the job done.
These are the biggest earning pitchers this year so far. John Means nearly tops this one, too. In Tout AL Rob Leibowitz paid $13 for Means, a stiff price (he earned $18 and $12 the preceding years), but he’s getting his money’s worth and then some so far. Rob is languishing in the middle of the pack so far this season, because he lost Nick Anderson to injury and hasn’t been able to add a closer, and doesn’t have enough starters to contend in strikeouts. Having the big profit player on your team isn’t a surefire route to success, but it doesn’t hurt.
Finally, our trip through the first quarter wouldn’t be complete without a look at the well-paid pitchers who are killing our teams.
A list of broken dreams and smashed expectations, for the most part. Some of these guys will climb out of the hole they’re in. Lucas Giolito perhaps started the process yesterday, but maybe not all of the way out. He’s had some tough luck but he’s also been hit harder than last. His fastball is off a tick, and his slider is harder and more hittable. To get to his $31 bid price he’ll have to earn $133 in the next three quarters. That’s $44 or so. John Means and Gerrit Cole have shown it can be done, so there’s hope.
Good luck the rest of the way. I’ll be back at midseason with a look at where we are then.
These prices are based on a 24 team mixed league using standard roto rules. They should align with standard AL and NL only prices for season-long stats.
It should be noted that the Top 336 hitters and 216 pitchers have positive values.
Hitters and pitchers start off at about -$4 and work off this opportunity cost as they gain playing time. The value of a player with very limited PT is likely a few dollars more than his shown earnings here.
The bid prices are an average of the bid prices we post at pattonandco.com for each player in the spring and the three expert league actual prices paid (with funny money): CBS, LABR, and Tout Wars).
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